Wal-Mart Watch: The Sunday Herald assesses the battles to follow Inglewood: This summer the Los Angeles city council is expected to vote on whether to ban such ?big box? shops. ?It will become the battle royal for all of organised labour in the United States,? said Miguel Contreras of LA Union, the local umbrella group for trade unions. ?It?s a major setback. Wal-Mart doesn?t often lose,? says Harley Shaiken, a labour expert at the University of California. ?This has dented Wal-Mart?s armour.? The move is likely to embolden other opponents of the firm... Earlier this month, Chicago councillors delayed voting on a change in planning zones that would have allowed Wal-Mart to open its first complex. But California is so far proving the most difficult. San Diego is considering a ban on mega-stores. Oakland, in northern California, has passed one. And plans for another store in the central town of Bakersfield are on hold because of a union-backed lawsuit. Not all attempts have been successful. In two counties near San Francisco, local officials relented after Wal-Mart threatened to bring the issue to a vote. The chain is aggressively expanding on the west coast and hopes, by the end of the decade, to have cornered one-fifth of California?s mammoth retail market with more than three dozen super-stores. The company has even become an issue in the US presidential race, in which the economy and jobs loom large. Democratic contender John Kerry has slammed Wal-Mart as having inadequate health insurance for its workers. Kerry?s wife, Teresa Heinz, has been more blunt. ?It destroys communities,? she says. Heinz in turn has been lambasted for, until recently, owning $1 million in Wal-Mart stock... In a class-action lawsuit filed in November in New Jersey, janitors accused Wal-Mart of breaking federal anti-racketeering laws by conspiring with sub-contractors to cheat them out of overtime pay and of failing to make proper contributions to the government. A fortnight before the suit was filed, federal agents had arrested 250 night-time cleaners in 60 Wal-Mart shops who were allegedly in the country illegally.


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